Online learning may as well be the trademark of 2020. The COVID-induced shift towards remote, distance learning has added an extra layer of complexity for college institutions and their students. Yet, while few of us have fully embraced this remote learning experience, online learning is not going away. Here’s why.
#1: Social and Economic Considerations of College
As I’m certain most US college students are aware of is exactly how expensive going to a four-year college is. Data from 2019 shows that the average cost of tuition to attend a private four-year college is roughly $55,000 per year, which amasses to a hefty $220,000 for all four years. Public four-year colleges are slightly cheaper, yet still, amount to roughly $43,000 per year or $172,000 for the entire four years.
Even more alarming? The rise of college education costs makes it less likely for students from low-income classes to have a fair chance of being able to attend the nation’s most prestigious universities. At Ivy Leagues and similarly ranked universities, such as Standford, MIT, University of Chicago, students from the top 1% of the income bracket make up more of the population (14.5%) than the bottom 50% of the income group (13.5%).
With these disparities in access to higher-level education, it comes as no surprise as to why mobility rates for students in the bottom quintile are so low at top universities across the country. Students with the best prospects of attending a four-year college are Asian and Caucasians who come from middle to upper-class backgrounds, with black, Hispanic, and first-generation students at a severe disadvantage.
#2: Alternative Ways of Learning
Platforms likeQuze edX, Coursera, and udemy are becoming much more appealing to students, as they allow students to learn particular skills that, upon mastery, open pathways to their future care.By taking a series of related courses or by participating in boot camps, students can complete certifications or degrees in disparate industries, such as design, technology, and business. On the other hand, a traditional college education is driven by having students meet pre-defined learning standards that determine the succession into higher courses as required for the attainment of a certain degree.
What’s more? These online learning pathways allow for individuals to self-pace their learning, all the while, not losing out on instruction by experts in the field.
This means that students can spend more time on topics they are struggling on and less on those that pose them no difficulties.
Instead of grades serving as key motivators for completing the course, the focus shifts to internal motivation, driven by the student’s desire to learn a particular skill.
This is quite contrary to brick-and-mortar college education, wherein students are forced to adapt to the pace set by the professor. This means that it becomes pertinent for the student to seek extra assistance in areas they are struggling with, meanwhile, staying on top of the new material that is being taught.
At the end of the day, this may not seem like an issue for students who have already adapted to work around this issue; however, it does merit questioning whether this approach is truly conducive to the learning growth of the student.
With universities’ move towards remote learning due to the pandemic, it has become quite apparent how much technology can and cannot do when it comes to delivering a great learning experience.
With Zoom classes taking the place of IRL classes, students have raised concerns over the issues that come about with this type of learning. From Zoom burnout to increased distractibility and decreased concentration, online learning has yet to offer a learning experience that completely replaces the traditional classroom.
Yet, it would be unfair to say that, technologically speaking, we cannot or will not get there.
As artificial intelligence becomes more refined over the next few years, we will come into acquaintance with more personalized AI that will provide feedback that is unique to our own experience.
#5: Online Degrees are Increasing in Number
What may come as a surprise to some is the rise of colleges that offer online degrees, most particularly, post-graduate degrees. The University of Illinois and Georgia Institute of Technology are two colleges of over 2500 colleges, offering online degrees at a fraction of the cost of a traditional degree.
Data estimates show that this move towards colleges offering online degrees and programs is only expected to increase over the coming years. Colleges who resist this implementation of digital learning are expected to be at a disadvantage to those universities providing both pathways to learning.
However, as we journey towards more responsive and interactive AI technology, it becomes paramount that instructors, teaching online courses,
- interact with their students as much as possible,
- offer personalized feedback in a timely manner,
- deliver lectures that are succinct and engaging (through the use of videos, brief demonstrations, and charts and diagrams)
- and make evident the expectations and learning outcomes of each lesson and assignment from the outset so as to reduce any confusion.
Now that we’ve discussed the reasons why online learning is not leaving after the pandemic ends, it is up to us to determine how much we are willing to utilize its increasing potential in our growth.
While the case of the matter is a subjective one, online learning alternatives, such as those curated by Quze, are heralding in a new age of learning — one that is sure to transform all that we have come to believe about learning.
Check out my past two articles of my Future of College Education Series!